That evening after they ate dinner and retired for the night, he put his arms behind his head as a pillow and thought about all the incidents that happened that day. Despite them all, they were still on track and have walked another twenty-five miles. Nicole had indicated that she thought they would be at the cave by three tomorrow afternoon if everything goes as planned. As they trekked higher into the mountains, they began to walk through more snow. Parts of the snowy mountains were two and three feet deep, but they were fortunate to be able to walk along the edge of the deep snow rather than through it. Wildlife at night is just as loud as wildlife during the day. Sometimes, looking up in the trees, he saw eyes glimmering.
Is he going to dream about her again tonight? Why did she continue to invade his space? Was he supposed to be searching for something, besides the Sacred Arrows? He really didn’t have time for a serious relationship. The last few dreams he’s had of Nicole, she was very much a part of his intimate life. After lying there for a few hours, he finally drifted off to sleep.
“Come on dad, let’s go fishing,” a small voice called out to him. He sat up in his bed and saw his son, Nathan, now ten years old, and a younger boy, about four or five years old. Hanging on to the bedposts. The younger one’s name was Marc, named after him. He had a lighter complexion, and his hair was more dark brown than black, but he had dark brown eyes. “Okay, let’s get ready.” He turned around in the bed and saw his wife, Nicole, nursing his newborn son. They named him David, after the Cheyenne tribal chief and his best friend.The babe was suckling greedily on her breast. Her hair was sprawled out over the pillow. “Are you going to be okay love, while I take the boys out for a while?”
“I’ll be fine. You go ahead.”
He looked in on them again before he left with the boys. Nicole and the baby were sound asleep. He smiled. His heart was glad, he was happy, his children were happy, his wife was happy. He had his family, what he always wanted.
He woke from the dream and laid there staring at the top of his tent. Were his dreams telling him something? Was he supposed to marry this woman? Why are the dreams so intense? So — real? It was like he could just reach out and touch her. He had been thinking of asking her to be a nanny for Nathan. Maybe she was supposed to be his wife instead? Why is he even thinking of marriage? He had no time for that, Nathan took all his free time.
“Oh my God. Ugh. Get out Sierra. Come on.” He heard her unzip her tent.
He poked his head out his tent window. “What’s the matter?”
“Spiders. Lots of them. They are black spiders.”
Marcus quickly pulled his pants on and came out of his tent while she was going through her backpack for bug repellent. She found the repellent and started spraying her tent.
“You’re not going to be able to get back in your tent and sleep after you get done with that, the repellent will make you sick.”
“What do you suggest?” she asked as she continued to spray the tent.
“Guess you’ll have to camp in my tent with me.”
Nicole stopped and looked at her watch. “It’s almost three in the morning. We still need to get a little rest before we start up again.”
By her body language, he could tell that she was nervous about lying next to him. “Did you get bit by any of the spiders?”
“No. Not that I can tell. I hope Sierra doesn’t have any spiders biting on her.”
“Well, just in case she does have some on her, she’ll have to sleep outside.”
Marcus opened the tent flap, and Nicole slipped in. He couldn’t figure out why she would have insulated underwear on unless she just sleeps in them. She laid down on the tent floor, and he laid down next to her and pulled the sleeping blanket over the both of them.
“Have you ever slept outside the tent, on the ground by the campfire?” Nicole asked.
“Yes, I have done that many times. Have you?
“No. I’m too afraid to. I have visions of wildlife picking me for their gourmet meal.”
Marcus chuckled. “It’s different from sleeping in a tent. Your senses are more alert. At least, mine is, and I don’t get a good sound sleep. Part of it I think is because I’ve become accustomed to a soft bed. One night my friend, Chief David Whitetail and I were sleeping outside because it was a hot summer day and it felt cooler sleeping than sleeping in a tent, and I woke up and looked over at him to see a wolf sitting right next to him. That was an interesting event.”
“Oh wow. I bet. What did you do?”
“The wolf had his eyes fixated on me, and I kept giving David bird calls to wake him up. I didn’t know what the hell the wolf would do, and after ten minutes of bird calling and just about anything else I could do to get his attention, he finally woke up, and he said to me, ‘What the hell are you caterwauling about?’ I said, ‘Look what is sitting next to you.’ He damn near jumped out of his sleeping bag. He said, ‘Holy shit, what the hell and I going to do now?’ I said, ‘You’re a chief, you don’t know what to do?’ Years later, we laugh when we talk about it, but at the time, it was a precarious situation. Eventually, the wolf just wandered off.”
Nicole rolled over to her side, facing Marcus. She rested the side of her face on her arm. He could see her blue eyes as they lit up in the tent. “I remember years ago when I was just a young teenager, my parents, Ronnie and I went camping at Flathead Lake. It was dark, and late at night, we were sitting around the campfire and dad was telling us stories. I glanced to the left of me and had this green monster sitting next to me. I immediately high-tailed it over the campfire and got between my parents. It turned out that the people that were camping next to us, they had a Saint Bernard dog, and the kids had painted the poor dog green. He was just visiting us, but geez, it put the fear of God in me for a few minutes. I’ve always loved those times when mom and dad took us camping.”
“Made you think there was a real green-eyed monster for a few minutes, huh?” Marcus laughed quietly.
“It did. I have a lot of happy memories with mom and dad.”
“That’s good. I hope that when Nathan gets older, he can say the same about me. I want to make all his life memorable and happy.”
“I think you do. He sure seems to be a happy little boy to me. Why do you have custody? Was your ex-wife not a good mother?”
“No. She wasn’t, really. We had a brief affair when she told me she was pregnant. So I married her. She was not cut out to be a mother and really didn’t want to be. She had an affair with another man and then asked for a divorce. At first, she had custody, but then she decided she wanted to run across the country with her new lover and didn’t want Nathan. I petitioned the court and got full custody of him.”
“I can’t imagine anyone giving up a sweet little boy like Nathan. I think he’s just adorable.”
“Too bad his mother didn’t feel the same.”
“Does he still believe in Santa Claus?”
“I think so, although I don’t encourage it. We don’t really celebrate those kind of things.” Marcus chuckled. “His birthday is in November, and last year, I got him a telescope. On Christmas Eve, he was looking through it and came running down the stairs to me all excited, telling me, “Dad, I think I saw Rudolph’s paws!”
Nicole laughed. “How precious. I can remember one year, and I was about Nathan’s age, and we went to town at Christmas time to visit Santa. I sat on his lap and told him what I wanted, and then after Ronnie and I did that, we out the front door of the Ben Franklin store where he was at, and saw the parade. Lo and behold, here came Santa Claus at the end of the parade.” Nicole laughed. “My parents had a lot of explaining to do then.”
“Two jolly old Saint Nick’s.” Marcus quipped.
“I think that was probably the year Ronnie and I started questioning those things.”
They laid there quiet for a few minutes. “Did you always want to be a lawyer?”
“Yes. I always like the law. I spent a lot of time in the public library reading up on cases and reading the law books. I went to law school and got my degree, and started work at a law firm. I mentioned before, I was, I am, a member of the Dog Soldiers in the Cheyenne Nation. In 2003, the U.S. Government recruited us to serve in the Iraq war. I served two tours before getting injured three months before I was to be discharged. I spent a one year recuperating from the injuries before a friend and I established our law firm.”
“How big is your law firm?”
“It’s a mid-size law firm. My friend, Mike Jenkins, and I are the senior partners. We have five associates, who we employ, but they are not owners. They have less experience than Mike and I have. We occasionally have contract lawyers for things that are outside the criminal practice that we have, and we have a team of seven law clerks that do the research and assist us in preparing for cases. Both Mike and I have our individual paralegals, and we each have our own legal secretaries. Since our business has really taken off, we just hired a receptionist to answer phones and greet the clients. We have on contract, private investigators, a laboratory for DNA analysis and other lab work, and a forensic pathologist that can analyze the lab work and testify in court if needed.”
“Needless to say, you probably don’t have a nine to five job.”
Marcus smiled in the dark. “No. My hours are not set in stone. We both have done weekends, and in a few instances, we both worked on the same case because it called for the extra help.”
Marcus’s lips were close to Nicole’s. He really did want to kiss her. His body was on fire with desire to make love to her. Quick, think. He had to get on to a different subject so he didn’t give in to his need to make love to her. He wanted to so bad, but he knew she was not experienced in lovemaking, and he loved passion. If he was going to make love to her, he wanted her to feel the passion, the pleasure, and the enjoyment of sex. It’s not just a wham bam, we’re done thing as it had become with his ex-wife. Her first time should be as enjoyable and pleasant as possible, to set the tone for the rest of her life as far as sex was concerned. If she didn’t find it pleasurable her first time, she might not ever find it pleasurable.
“What about you?” He asked, breaking the silence.
“What about me?” Nicole asked.
“What have you done with your life?”
“Nothing, really. I graduated from high school, but mom and dad didn’t have any money for me to go to college, so I didn’t go. As it turned out, my mom has debilitating arthritis in her hands and knees, so I took care of her most of the time while my dad was still working. When he finally retired, I went and got different menial jobs to support myself. Then my dad brought the mining business here in Mason, and I went to work for him for a number of years before he sold it and he and mom moved to Arizona so she could get some relief from her arthritis pain. Ronnie and Debbie brought the motel from another couple, and they asked me to help run it in exchange for a small pay and a free room. I clean the rooms and do the wash. When they want to take off, I handle the registration and everything else that comes up.”
“How old are you, Nicole?”
“You’d be good with a handful of kids running underfoot.”
“Fat chance of that happening.”
“No one in my life to commit to and raise a family with.”
“You’re still young, there is still a chance for you.”
“You know, we’ve laid here and talked this whole time, and it’s almost time for us to get up.”
Marcus looked at his watch. He was amazed at how the time just flew by, and neither of them got any zzz’s. “Yeah, may as well get up, eat and get moving.” He sat up in the tent, and stretched his arms and yawned.
“I’m sorry I didn’t let you get any sleep,” Nicole said.
“Nothing to be sorry for. I don’t think either of us could get any sleep anyway. It was nice to have the company and just lay here and talk.”
Marcus unzipped the tent and got out. Nicole followed after him. He threw some sticks in the embers to rekindle the fire, then he slipped a tee-shirt on while Nicole went into her tent and put her clothing on. When she was dressed, she came out.
“Ick. Everything smells like repellent.”
He felt a ripple of mirth. “At least you won’t have any spiders.”
She smiled at him. “Oh, hardee har har. Let’s see, today I think I’m going to have the breakfast skillet. Is there something you’d like me to fix you to eat?”
“I think I’ll just have my oatmeal again. Did you say there is a river on our route? I need to get some fresh water.”
“Yeah, we’ll pass by it. It’s a few miles away.”
Nicole fixed the breakfasts and fed Sierra while Marcus took down his tent and put it in the backpack.
* * * *
After eating breakfast, Nicole took her tent down. She was giddy almost the whole time she laid down next to Marcus. She had all she could do to keep from reaching up and stroking his face in the dark while they laid in his tent. She wanted desperately to have his arms around her, to feel him touch her, to feel his lips on hers. Her heart swelled with love for the man. A kind of love she had never felt before.
When she was ready, she let out a small sigh and looked at Marcus, who was tying up his boot laces. “I think I’m ready. Looks like we’ll have to use our headlamps for a while.”
“Yeah, it’s just daylight enough to walk into something if we’re not careful.”
They walked several hours, and it started to snow. At times, it was heavy, other times it was light. Neither of them spoke much. Nicole kept recapping their conversations from when they were in the tent. She had to wonder if other couples shared intimate stories and discuss things as she and Marcus did early this morning in his tent. She felt like she knew him well by now, and that he shared things with her that he would probably not share with others. She treasured the conversations they had and vowed she would always hold them near her heart.
Off in the distance, they heard a horse neighing. Nicole stopped and waited for Marcus to catch up with her. Sierra was walking around them in circles, yipping. Marcus took a quiet walk to the left of where she stood and went about eighty feet before he turned and motion for her to join him. She came up next to him and saw them. There was a clearing in the distance, and in the clearing stood one proud white, stallion. He stood between them and the herd of horses on the other side of him. There were two young colts and four adult horses. The white stallion stomped his foot on the ground repeatedly until the other wild horses took off running in the opposite direction. When they were well hidden in the forest, he then trotted off behind them.
“He seemed pretty protective of his harem.”
“The males always are. They are a beautiful creature. They should always be left alone to run the wild, as in their nature to do.”
“So we’ve come across elk, deer, bear, and wild horses. That’s a lot of wildlife.” Nicole started walking again.
“We’re fortunate we haven’t had to defend ourselves from any of them.”
By late afternoon, they came upon a summit. Nicole looked around to see if she could find any landmarks that would tell her that they arrived at the cave. They saw two caves, but one was a small stand up cave that looked more like a rock that had been cut out. You could take about five steps and come out on the other side. The other cave was more of a hole in the earth, big enough to put her in it, but not Marcus. She knew that was not the cave.
“Let’s walk over this way and see what we find. I do not recognize any of this.”
They had walked another four hundred feet before they came upon a clearing and on the other side of the summit.
“Here it is,” she said.
The cave had a mammoth opening and a large, dead tree that sat on top of it with roots all around the cave. She marked the place with her GPS, and then called her brother and left him a message that they had arrived at the cave and that they were getting ready to go into it. She said she’d call him back in an hour to let him know they were out of the cave.
She pulled out her notebook and paper, and let a note and tied it to another tree nearby, as recommended by the Department of Natural Resources.
Nicole pulled her knitted hat out and put it on with her headlamp. She got out her flashlight, and Marcus did the same. “Well, are you ready?”
“Yes. Let’s go.”
They walked in slowly, Using their headlamps and flashlights to see the walls and the floor of the cave. Sierra seemed able to have perfect vision, as she ventured ahead of them both like she was leading them to something. It was pit black and cold. There were jagged rocks under their feet.
“How far in do you recall the Sacred Arrows to be?”
“Not too far in. I don’t venture deep into caves. I’m afraid I’d get caved in and die.”
They went in three hundred feet, and it was black all around them except for the opening of the cave, which was by now a small white speck.
“We should be coming upon it. I hope it’s here. I don’t recall going much further than this.”
Marcus walked pass Nicole and headed deeper into the cave. “Here it is,” Marcus said softly.
She came up behind him. “Yes, those are the arrows I saw. Are they yours?”
“Yes.” Marcus pulled his backpack off his shoulders, and unzipped one of the panels and pulled out a leather style bag. He unwrapped the bag and opened the top of it wide. He picked up the leather pouch with the arrows, and carefully placed them in the leather bag and secured them. He looked around at the footprints. “It doesn’t look like anyone has been in the cave in years. I want to handle these are careful as possible because I hoped that I can get some DNA off of it to lead me to the perpetrator that stole them. Plus, they have been sitting in this dust for years and have become fragile.”
They made their way back to the entrance of the cave and stood just inside of it. It had just started snowing again, and it was a complete white-out. “I think we should probably stay inside this cave until the storm passes,” Nicole said.
Marcus stood in the middle of the entrance looking out at the snow. He had the leather bag attached to his backpack, and the ends of the arrows were sticking out at the top of the bag.
She leaned her shoulder against the cave wall, watching it snow. She absentmindedly patted Sierra, who was standing next to her. Suddenly, it felt like the earth was moving. The rotted tree collapsed along with mountains of dirt. Marcus grabbed Nicole and pulled her out of the way as the cave entrance became blocked.
“Nicole, what the hell did you do?” Marcus’s voice hissed.
“N-Nothing. I was just leaning —.” She looked over at what used to be the wall next to the entrance to the cave. “Oh. My. God. We’re trapped. We can’t get out. I don’t think there is an opening at the other end. There are bats in here. Oh. My. God.” Nicole started to panic.
“We’re okay, Nicole. We’ll get out.” Marcus grabbed her arm.
“No, Marcus, you don’t understand. There is no other way out of here.”
“Do you know that for sure?”
“No. I-I never went all the way through, but it’s a long one. Marcus, I don’t think we’ll get out.”
“Calm down, Nicole. We’ll be fine. Just don’t panic.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Well, we got enough food for a few days. You already notified your brother and told him to expect a call back from you in an hour. My guess if he doesn’t hear from you, he will start a search and rescue. You left a log outside the cave, so they should be able to find it. You said you have a tracking device on your cell phone, and you gave him the GPS location. I expect we’ll hear them outside in a day or two.”
“What if we don’t make it out alive? What about Nathan? I’m never going to go in a cave ever again.”
“Are you sure there isn’t a small opening deeper in the cave?” Did you go all the way back?” Marcus asked.
“I don’t want to get ate by bats!”
“You won’t get ate by bats.”
Oh. My. God. This is awful, my worst nightmare.” She started pacing.
“Sit down and relax. Come on, sit,” Marcus demanded.
Nicole went and sat down on the jagged rocks and dirt in the floor of the cave.
“Now, take a deep breath, let it out slowly. Do it again, let it out slowly. Now think logically on this. Your brother is going to send us help. You know this.”
“It’s so dark in here.” Nicole wrapped her arms around the front of her and rubbed her forearms.
“Well, we’ll need to go into the cave about fifty, sixty feet, in case they decide to blast the opening. Let’s go.”
They walked fifty feet into the cave. “This is good. Let me walk around a bit to see if I can find some loose roots and sticks to build us a fire. I will also try to get to the other end and see if there is an opening. You sit here and wait.”
Marcus and Sierra went further into the cave. “Stay cool. You’ll be okay.” She huddled on the rocky cave floor trying to suppress the panicky feeling that threatened to resurface. Why did you do something so stupid? I’m not alone, he’ll be back soon. The rugged and weary walls seemed to closed in on her.
* * * *
Great. Good fucking great. We’re inside the damn cave, no way to get out. I can only hope her brother is smart enough to send help right away. Damn cellphones don’t work, GPS don’t work, Shit. What the hell was she doing anyway? Leaning against the cave wall. Something you don’t do.
“Come on, Sierra, let's walk as far as well can to see if there is an opening.” As if she knew what he said, she began to walk alongside him. Jesus Christ. She was right, there are bats in here. He could hear the clicking noises as he ventured into the area where they were hanging upside down from the ceiling of the cave and on the walls. These bats are going to be flying around tonight, trying to get out of the cave.
Marcus stopped and reached around to pull his hood out from the pouch at the back of his jacket, and pulled it up over his head. He didn’t want bat shit in his hair. The further he went into the cave, the more ominous it seemed. He had walked a mile, and it seemed like it went forever, when he finally came to the end. There were no openings to get out. Shit, shit, shit. They couldn’t get lucky just once and be in a cave that had an opening at the other end. Marcus was getting more irritated by the minute. He turned and started walking back, grabbing a few sticks or roots as he walked. He did remember to pack a trowel, and a knife and he was pretty sure that Nicole packed a trowel as well. If he didn’t hear any rescue operations going on outside the cave in the next day or so, they would have to try to dig themselves out.
He finally made it back to where he left Nicole and put the kindling down. He gathered a bunch of rocks and formed a circle with them. He put the kindling down in the center and started a fire. It was a chilly, constant forty-five degrees in the cave. Soon the fire was going, and it warmed up their area.
“I’m sorry, Marcus. I leaned against that dead tree. It’s all my fault.”
“Don’t start blaming yourself. These things happen. We’ll get out.”
They could hear the wind howling outside. “At least we’ll be dry,” Marcus commented. “Let’s get the tents set up, and get some dinner going.” He figured that would keep her busy and her mind off the circumstances. Yes, it could be very serious. We have the potential of not being rescued for days. If it doesn’t stop snowing, it’ll take a while before the helicopters can land and that’s the only kind of rescue he thought would be able to get to them.
They got their tents up, and Nicole made their dinner, and they sat and ate. The bats were starting to come alive and flew to the front entrance of the cave wanting to get out. Nicole kept ducking as if she was afraid one of them would dive on her. “Bats don’t bite unless cornered,” Marcus said.
“They are cornered. They can’t get out.”
“But they can fly back to the middle or end of the cave to get away from us.” Marcus felt bad for Nicole. She was obviously afraid. “Come over here, Nicole.” Marcus patted the spot next to him. At first, she looked as if she was going to resist, but she got up and came and sat down next to him. He put his arm around her shoulders and held her close to him. “It’ll be okay. We’ll get out,” he kept reassuring her.
“That was a stupid thing, I did,” she cast her head down.
“You had no idea the cave was going to fall in. Neither did I. So don’t blame yourself. Let’s just concentrate on staying warm for tonight and hopefully they will get us out tomorrow. Plus tomorrow, we can look at our own resources and see what we can do about digging ourselves out.”
In an effort to help her get her mind off the problems they were facing, he asked her, “Are you involved with anyone?”
“I take it that you haven’t been married. Have you had any serious relationships?”
“Well, hello. You see me?” She brought both hands out and jerked her thumbs inwards. “I’m not exactly Marilyn Monroe. I’m not attractive to men, and besides, none of them have peaked my interest either.”
“What makes you think you’re not attractive? I find you attractive.”
Nicole’s eyes drew wide. “You — You do?”
“Yes. Hasn’t anyone ever told you how attractive you are?” He wasn’t surprised by her answer or her reaction.
“No. What do you find attractive about me?”
“You have beautiful blue eyes, a soft, gentle face, and beautiful long, blonde hair. You have a beautiful body shape, and your skin is smooth looking.” He stopped for a few seconds, “And delicate.” He watched her eyes as they stared back at him. He knew that she probably couldn’t believe that he found her attractive. She just didn’t have much in her self-esteem to see herself that way.
“In fact,” He moved over closer to her until their bodies touched. “I find your mauve colored lips extremely attractive.” He leaned in closer, their faces just less than an inch apart. She opened her lips slightly as she studied his face.
He kissed her then drew back a half-inch, then kissed her again, then again until she responded by kissing him back. She brought her hand up and rest it softly on his chest. He brought his left arm around and pulled her to him so her breasts were touching his shirt. He could feel the points of them through the fabric. He was glad that she took off her jacket before she started their dinner. He loved the feel of her tits against him. He knew he should stop, but he didn’t want to. He loved her softness. He continued to kiss the contours of her lips. His tongue traced the soft fullness of her lips.